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Structural changes in the progression of atrial fibrillation: Potential role of glycogen and fibrosis as perpetuating factors

Zhang, Ling
Huang, Bing
Scherlag, Benjamin J.
Ritchey, Jerry W.
Embi, Abraham A.
Hu, Jialu
Hou, Yuemei
Po, Sunny S.
Background: Previous studies of the goat heart subjected to prolonged atrial pacing induced sustained atrial fibrillation (AF). Structural changes included marked accumulation of glycogen in atrial myocytes. Aims: In the present study, we hypothesized that glycogen deposition in canine atrial myocytes promotes paroxysmal forms of AF and is involved in fibrosis development in the later stages of AF. Material & methods: In dogs under pentobarbital anesthesia, tissues were obtained from the right and left atrial appendages (LAA/RAA). Periodic acid Schiff (PAS) and Masson's trichrome staining of the LAA/RAA from normal dogs, and those subjected to atrial pacing induced AF for 48 h or 8 weeks determined glycogen and collagen concentrations, respectively, using morphometric analysis. Results: At baseline, there was a significant greater concentration of glycogen in the LAA than the RAA (P </= 0.05). Compared to the RAA, the LAA glycogen, was dense and locked against the intercalated discs. After pacing induced AF for 48 hours and 8 weeks there was a marked increase in glycogen deposition, significantly greater than in the baseline state (P </= 0.05). There was a similar and progressive increase in collagen concentrations in each group (P </= 0.05). Conclusions: The differential in glycogen concentration, in conjunction with other factors, neural and electrophysiological, provide a basis for the greater propensity of the left atrium for paroxysmal AF, at baseline and 48 hours of pacing induced AF. The marked increase in collagen at 8 weeks of pacing provides a substrate for sustained AF. Evidence is presented linking glycogen accumulation and fibrosis as factors in the persistent forms of AF.